Savio's death ruled homicide

February 22, 2008 3:08:55 PM PST
The death of Drew Peterson's third wife has been ruled a homicide as the search continues for his current wife.

Kathleen Savio's body was found four years ago in a dry bathtub. At the time authorities determined she had accidentally drowned.

Savio was married to Drew Peterson, a former Bolingbrook Police officer. The investigation into her death was reopened after Peterson's fourth wife, Stacy Peterson, was reported missing.

A crash course in legal terminology may actually put this autopsy finding in a bit of perspective for you. The actual cause of Kathleen Savio's death is unchanged, still drowning. But it is the manner of death that the autopsy now changes. Originally it was found to be accidental. Now they say it's homicide. But it's important to note that homicide doesn't always mean murder. But, in this case, there is certainly that strong suspicion.

"Obviously, my family knew something. Now it's official," said Charles Doman, Kathleen Savio's nephew.

One answer, but the final chapter in the mystery surrounding Kathleen Savio's death is yet to be written. A new autopsy concludes she died at the hands of another person, a homicide. That has been the long-standing suspicion of Savio's family.

"If they would have looked at it back when my aunt was murdered, they would have had a crime scene, they would have had the forensic evidence. As opposed to now, there is no more crime scene," said Doman.

For Savio's ex-husband, former Bolingbrook cop Drew Peterson, it has been another day of seclusion. Off camera, he told ABC7, "There is nothing I can do. I'm just watching it all happen. I can't even defend myself."

"We have contradicting findings by the authorities in Will County, so I think that when it was done years ago, it is almost with a high degree of probability that was more accurate," said Joel Brodsky, Drew Peterson's attorney.

There is hope that new answers in Savio's death may lead to new clues in the effort to find out what happened to Drew Peterson's fourth wife Stacy.

"As much as they were at odds in the very beginning with the situation involving Drew, I think -- I would like to believe that they are now united and they are still sending the message that they were originally when they were alive, of his involvement and his relationship with them. I think they are still screaming that same message from the grave," said Pam Bosco, Stacy Peterson family spokesperson.

Former Cook County prosecutor Joe Roddy says the autopsy finding is just one facet in a very complex investigation.

"It's just a step. It doesn't change anything. The police will still investigate it. The facts will still be the facts. They will chase them down, follow the dots," said Roddy.

So the finding doesn't change much at this point. A grand jury remains impaneled, listening to witnesses, and the state police investigation continues. Prosecutors have said has their investigation has moved at an incredible strength all along in this process, so that won't change as well. It's clear, though, authorities are attempting right now to continue to move forward in this case, although they are doing so at their pace, not at the pace that many in the public and the families involved in this might want to see happen.

Official News Release from Will County Authorities

Pathologist declares Kathleen Savio's death a homicide

JOLIET - Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow announced today that his office has received the final report on the autopsy performed on the remains of Kathleen S. Savio on Nov. 13, 2007.

Dr. Larry W. Blum, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, concludes in his report that the actual cause of Kathleen Savio's death was drowning and that the legal manner of death was homicide. Dr. Blum's report was delivered to the Will County Coroner's Office on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008 and immediately forwarded to the Will County State's Attorney's Office and the Illinois State Police.

"Dr. Blum's forensic report renders his expert opinion that this is a homicide," State's Attorney Glasgow said. "We have been investigating this as a murder since reopening the case in November of last year. We now have a scientific basis to formally and publicly classify it as such."

The complete autopsy report is a component of the investigation into the March 1, 2004 death of Kathleen Savio and will not be released. However, the Will County State's Attorney's Office and the Illinois State Police are releasing the following quote from the conclusion in Dr. Blum's report:

"It is my opinion based on my education, training, experience and personal observations, and to a reasonable degree of medical and scientific certainty, compelling evidence exists to support the conclusions that the cause of death of Kathleen S. Savio was drowning and further, that the manner of death was homicide."

This was the second autopsy performed on Kathleen Savio's remains. The first was performed shortly after her death in March 2004. Her body was exhumed on the morning of Nov. 13, 2007, and Dr. Blum performed the second autopsy that afternoon.

In his report, Dr. Blum notes that he reviewed photos taken from the scene at the time of Kathleen Savio's death as well as reports of the initial scene investigation. He also carefully examined the physical location of Kathleen Savio's death on Nov. 20, 2007 as part of his investigation.

His report includes the results of microscopic examinations and toxicological tests conducted on postmortem tissue specimens. The specimens examined by Dr. Blum were collected during the first autopsy on March 2, 2004, the second autopsy performed by Dr. Blum on Nov. 13, 2007, and a third autopsy performed by Dr. Michael Baden on behalf of Kathleen Savio's family on Nov. 16, 2007.

The results of those examinations and tests are part of the investigation and are not being disclosed at this time.

The Illinois State Police are investigating the murder of Kathleen Savio as well as the disappearance of Stacy Peterson. Kathleen Savio's murder and Stacy Peterson's disappearance are simultaneously being investigated by a Special Grand Jury that was convened in November 2007.